Monday, October 25, 2021

SSA warms to greater patronage role

By Katherine Baxter

BBC South Africa business reporter

South Africa’s State Security Agency (SSA) has taken the unusual step of appointing itself as director-general of the competition watchdog, the Competition Commission, against the department that created the watchdog. Mr Mkhize used his influence to ensure that the tender was awarded to Vodacom. The Office of the Attorney General says he should be investigated. Mr Mkhize was previously minister of social development, and that department ordered the Competition Commission to investigate alleged misuse of power at the SSA. The change of regulators takes effect in January, but under existing rules it is not possible to prosecute while in office. Justice Minister Jeff Radebe told parliament this week that he would investigate Mr Mkhize over the Vodacom saga. ‘Straight-talking’ Mr Radebe said that this was because Mr Mkhize appeared to have misled parliament when he testified. But he did not mention whether he would pursue it as a state-sponsored investigation. Former Social Development Minister Zweli Mkhize was sacked by the president in May “When the matter is eventually made public, the minister has the power and the responsibility to initiate a criminal investigation to which others are party,” Mr Radebe said. Mr Mkhize, a former cabinet minister, has kept a low profile since being fired by President Jacob Zuma in May, but has recently attracted attention from both sides of South Africa’s political divide. Mr Mkhize was among a number of ministers kicked out of the cabinet for giving false evidence to the senate in March. And on Tuesday, the NPA – South Africa’s corruption watchdog – opened an investigation into Mr Mkhize after a leaked clip surfaced showing him saying he had “never been involved in corrupt practices”. The commission’s chair, Judge Dikgang Moseneke, told reporters that the video showed Mr Mkhize’s claims were “untrue and that they can be challenged”. “The identification of offenders in corruption cases is important. Whether or not the public should be exonerated from these types of charges is dependent on the way that the public is held liable for their participation in the commission of a crime,” Mr Moseneke said. A spokesman for the Competition Commission said it was reviewing the authenticity of the tapes, but dismissed any suggestion that they had been leaked. Vodacom group president and CEO Shameel Joosub said his company’s relationship with Mr Mkhize was “entirely proper” and added: “We will co-operate fully with the commission, where relevant.” The Competition Commission will decide if it needs to take further legal action over the issue.

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